Who will blink first..?

ON Talkback, Mark Devenport reckoned we could have a ‘mini-crisis’ on our hands. By that, it means that Sinn Fein may not nominate Martin McGuinness on Thursday as the brinkmanship continues. At that point, there would be seven days to get things back on track. Mark adds on his blog: If that time expires, we could then be looking at a fresh election. Under the old rules that would have kicked in six weeks after the dissolution of the Assembly. But since the St Andrews Act the date of a fresh election is left at the Secretary of State’s discretion. I don’t think there’s much appetite for an election, so hopefully the talks that seem to be happening in the background will bear fruit. Or Woodward could put them off until things get resolved. Or Paisley could just delay his resignation. If you get the chance, Malachi O’Doherty’s analysis is well worth listening to, while Martina Purdy looks at the pros and cons for Sinn Fein here.
O’Doherty’s thoughts included the fact that Sinn Fein going for the ‘nuclear option’ – as SF used to call it when Trimble threatened to pull the plug on the Stormont show – could work against the party. An Irish language act is signifcant to a core in SF, and devolution of policing and justice is crucial – but are they more important to the many new SF voters than ongoing stability? How would Gerry ‘doing a Trimble’ play with those who voted for Sinn Fein to keep political decision-making local and not dictated from Westminster?

Also in play is the vote for 42-day detention for terrorist suspects. If Brown suspects he may need to buy DUP votes, would he risk alienating them by taking Sinn Fein’s side? The unedifying sight of Sinn Fein appealing to the new British Prime Minister might not have been worth the pain this time if Gordon has paid Gerry short shrift. Adams’ silence suggests he’s not happy. Brown will probably want to worry about Northern Ireland next week, after his crucial vote, and may pass the buck to Woodward. We’ll see soon enough, but I wonder if there’s anyone in SF counting the number of Labour rebels and thinking treacherous thoughts about how wonderful it would be to go through the Commons lobby and give Brown a bloody nose that would really grab his attention!

While SF’s power not to nominate a Deputy First Minister is seen as sabre-rattling by some, Martina Purdy has taken a slightly different tack and looked at possible advantages to the party if an early election is called. (O’Doherty points out that despite how it’s being argued that the DUP don’t want an election because of the TUV, they could counter the threat by being able to argue that they hadn’t been pushed around by SF. The new DUP director of elections – Jeffrey Donaldson – might relish the opportunity to prove himself in such circumstances.)

Purdy writes:

An election certainly does not suit the DUP just now, particularly in light of the Dromore by-election when it lost a chunk of its base to the Traditional Unionist Voice, enabling the Ulster Unionist Party to win the seat.

If the Dromore by-election result was replicated across Northern Ireland, one thing is certain: the DUP would not be sitting on 36 seats.

The fact is the DUP is a little too powerful for Sinn Fein’s tastes right now.

Might Sinn Fein see some advantage in the Traditional Unionist Voice splitting unionism?

Might it get its feet under the table of the first minister’s office if the unionist vote splits and the SDLP falls further behind?

Does Sinn Fein see the Traditional Unionist Voice as being at its most potent now – or in three years time?

An early election may suit Sinn Fein.

Does Sinn Fein for example want to be going to the polls in 2011 with the SDLP shouting about what it has called “the (Conor) Murphy tax” – that is household water bills?

Does it want to be going to the polls to be judged on education reform’s outcome which could include compromise?

Or would it rather go to the polls now staunchly defending its plan to phase out selection?

Does Sinn Fein want to wait for Fianna Fail’s army to come marching onto its patch – with or without the SDLP’s help?

Might it be better to go to the polls now before either the SDLP regroup or Fianna Fail invades?

Does Sinn Fein want to to go the polls in three years with the DUP having vetoed some key demands?

Or does it want to go to the polls now beating its chest and promising to give Peter Robinson and the DUP the “proverbial bloody nose”?

Of course there are risks involved in playing this game.

Geoge W Bush might cancel his trip to Stormont.

That is more likely to annoy the DUP than the republicans. In fact their grassroots will probably cheer.

Sinn Fein has conceded some of its holy grails to achieve power-sharing and north-south cooperation.

And forcing a crisis could put this in danger and delay power-sharing for years to come with the prospect of a dangerous vacuum opening up.

On the other hand, it reopens negotiations. Does Sinn Fein think it can do better? Is it addicted to negotiatiing?

Whatever the truth, the question for Sinn Fein is – does it have more to gain or more to lose?

If nothing else, this question must surely be concentrating minds in the DUP leadership.

And even if it is all a bluff and Sinn Fein ends up nominating, it may have taught the DUP a valuable lesson: there are consequences for saying No.

  • Elvis parker

    Martina’s nationalist outlook comes shining through.
    She positively swoons at how clever SF are. Strange how most bloggers whether unionist or nationalist think the Shinners have screwed up big time.

    She completely misjudges unionism – in an election called by SF because the DUP have out played SF the TUV will not benefit. Unionist voters will row in behind the DUP and squeeze UUP

    And the licence payers pay her salary?

  • observer

    Looks like Gordon told Gerry to get lost

  • “Strange how most bloggers whether unionist or nationalist think the Shinners have screwed up big time.”

    Most bloggers? I think you mean most people who post comments on Slugger, a different beast all together! Most of you are not bloggers, just people who read and comment on blogs.

    Most commentators on Slugger predicted that Sinn Féin would receive a bloody nose at the last Assembly election and that Sharon Haughey was going to come riding in on her big white horse.

    It didn’t happen then and it won’t happen now.

    If it takes an election to sort out policing and justice, Education, Irish language act etc then so be it.

    Let’s hope the weather holds!

  • Looks like Gordon told Gerry to get lost

    As Gerry surely knew he would. Leaves SF standing against both the British and the unionists – precisely where they were 10 years ago. For a lot of naatural SF voters that is probably familiar territory, and thus their vote will not suffer if/when there is an election. SF being seen to be too cosy with the British was starting to cause them some problems on the outer republican fringe, but this little crisis should solve that. Back to the barricades!

  • observer

    If it takes an election to sort out policing and justice, Education, Irish language act etc then so be it.

    Let’s hope the weather holds!

    Posted by Chris Gaskin on Jun 03, 2008 @ 03:04 PM

    You mean, sort it out to SFs satisfaction/ Aint gonna happen, and word is Gordon told them to sort it out themselves.

  • No Observer I don’t mean that at all. I don’t understand why you try to interpret my posts, they are clear enough on their own.

    [play the ball – edited moderator]

  • Inspector Cleauso

    The DUP’s attitude should be bring it on! If SF cause an election their recent actions and public statements have been very helpful to Peter Robinson . In fact there may be no better time for the DUP do electoral battle with TUV.

  • Mick Fealty

    Some commenters on Slugger thought both of those things Chris. But they were in a decided minority. My big miscalculation last year was in thinking GA had done well in the minor debate in the Republic.

    I’m presuming you know more than most of us on this Chris, since you’ve worked your constituency from a SF point of view. What would be the logic of calling an election now?

  • interested

    I wonder will SF be predicting the same gains in any future Assembly election as they were predicting at the last RoI general election.

    After all, that election was largely fought on SF’s competence within Government and whether they could actually handle the detail of running government.

    An odd parallel but maybe not a misplaced one….

  • Elvis parker

    ‘If it takes an election to sort out policing and justice, Education, Irish language act etc then so be it.’
    If you think an election would sort any of this out you are seriously deluded.
    Bottom line is SF signed up for a partitionist solution and that is becoming more painfully obvious to their supporters every day.

  • Elvis Parker,

    Bottom line is SF signed up for a partitionist solution and that is becoming more painfully obvious to their supporters every day.

    Indeed that is part of the ‘bottom line’. The other part is that that ‘solution’ (temporary, in my mind) had a flip side, which included power sharing, mutual respect, the contents of the StAA, etc. If one side delivers, and the other does not, then I think, after having given it a try, SF would be within their rights to pull it down.

    And if they get the blame? So what – will it hurt their long-term project?

  • kensei

    Mick

    Some commenters on Slugger thought both of those things Chris.

    Actually, Mick, there was a continuous noise on here at the time and I seem to recall you’d bought some of it close to the election. I think that circumstances have shifted since then, but there is a danger of overestimating any damage SF is likely to take at the polls.

    I think the case for going to the electorate is fairly clear if you want to make it. If SF makes the election on the Nationalist side about some key issues, particularly P and J, after the election they have a clear mandate on them. Second, there were a few tight seats last time and they could possibly squeeze a few extra for nationalism, even without the TUV’s help. I think if the SDLP pulled one more they would have got another ministerial seat, for example. Though that remains a risk for nationalists too, and I suppose you couldn’t rule out a Unionist pact. Third, it might be good to get an election before boundary changes or FF get a chance to regroup.

    Huge risk, but not entirely without potential rationale.

  • “Some commenters on Slugger thought both of those things Chris. But they were in a decided minority”

    No they were not Mick, if you wish I will go back to the threads concerne and draw up a percentage chart?

    The same thing happened after Davy Hyland failed to be selected.

    This site suffers from it’s own success.

    Many politicos and journalists try to influnce opinion by inventing a whole host of new commentators when a issue of importance arsises.

    Be it an election or whatever.

    The same is happening now.

    “I’m presuming you know more than most of us on this Chris, since you’ve worked your constituency from a SF point of view.”

    Let’s leave aside Thursday for a second.

    If, in the not too distant future, we have an election, for whatever reason, then I can assure you that I have no fear of knocking peoples door and asking for a vote. I don’t believe Sinn Féin would have anything to fear from that election.

    In fact the SDLP would have nothing to fear at that election either. If they were smart enough to only put forward one candidate in West Tyrone we(Nationalists/Republicans) would gain a minister from Unionism.

    In that respect the UUP have something to fear as do the DUP from the TUV.

    “What would be the logic of calling an election now?”

    Nobody has called and election nor has anyone called for their to be an election called. You will have to wait to Thursday to see how the land lies.

    Politics is one long negotation, Robbo’s ego will be an interesting factor in that poker game.

  • Ian

    One interesting question that hasn’t been brought up yet: if there is an early election, will Paisley Snr stand again?

  • Elvis parker

    ‘will it hurt their long-term project’
    No it wont because their long term project still has no chance of success.

    The Belfast Agreement and St Andrews Agreement were about defeat with honour for Sinn Fein and the IRA. Obviously that rankles with them but this tactic shows their impotence in a world without guns and the threat of violence.

    Brown doesnt care for their whinging and Cameron will give them shorter shrift.

  • ulsterfan

    What did Trimble say about Sf being house trained and fit for democracy?
    If we don’t get all we want we will bring the house down—–“ourselves alone” and to hell with the rest of you.

  • PeaceandJustice

    The Sinn Fein PIRA terrorists are playing games in order to try and get a few more concessions. They were previously pushing for Stormont to be up and running. Not it’s up and running, they’re making threats – something of course they are very good at.

    Many Unionists are not that happy with the DUP and think they only got a few concessions at St Andrews. Taking away those few crumbs and giving into Sinn Fein PIRA once again would spell the end of the DUP and Stormont.

    So let’s not play games. The Sinn Fein PIRA terrorists are trying to use any opportunity to negotiate again. It’s hardly big news.

  • ulsterfan,

    … If we don’t get all we want we will bring the house down

    Yet another strawman argument!

    Nobody, either in SF, or in the wider nationalist world, has ever said that they expect to get “all they want“. The whole nature of powersharing and consensual politics is that both sides get some of what they want. If there is no powersharing, then the ‘house’ is already a ruin, and probably deserves to be torn down to make room for a better one. Nothing lasts for ever – if the DUP had actually played by the principles of powersharing then we would not be debating this issue today.

    And why, exactly, should SF care about what unionists think of them, if those same unionists are the ones that are blocking each and every one of their aspirations? If SF are blocked by the current system (as many unionists gloat), then they have no interest whatsoever in maintaining it. Unfortunately for unionism, the ‘system’ also allows SF to call a halt to the unionist blocking and obstructionism.

  • observer

    And why, exactly, should SF care about what unionists think of them, if those same unionists are the ones that are blocking each and every one of their aspirations? If SF are blocked by the current system (as many unionists gloat), then they have no interest whatsoever in maintaining it. Unfortunately for unionism, the ‘system’ also allows SF to call a halt to the unionist blocking and obstructionism.

    Posted by Horseman on Jun 03, 2008 @ 04:45 PM

    Well do it then and stop the mopery. Anything, including direct rule , is better than listening to moaning republicans

  • Mick Fealty

    Happy to answer on the specifics of that ken (I don’t mind eating porridge when I must). No need for a chart Chris. Spin in the comments zone is bad a lot of time, but much worse as we get closer to polling days, so I take your point.

    On the election thing, I’ve already stated elsewhere that the directionlessness of the SDLP is your banker. Martina’s socratic questions above hint at a few other possible reasons. But the changes in the larger game are likely to be marginal. Isn’t another Ministerial seat to the SDLP as likely to come from SF, as the DUP?

    My soundings suggest the TUV could take anything from two up to six seats tops. The UUP might sneak one or two back. That would take them from a loss of three (which still leaves them in the thirties) to eight, which would make things interesting.

    The DUP is likely to play any impending election with its pain upfront, and advert to the pain the of Sinn Fein in the new dispensation, which whilst well known and understood amongst nationalist society, is less well understood amongst unionists.

    The mood in Stormont seems to be one of disbelief across the board.

  • “Isn’t another Ministerial seat to the SDLP as likely to come from SF, as the DUP?”

    How do you work that out?

    “The mood in Stormont seems to be one of disbelief across the board.”

    Seeing is believing so roll on Thursday!

  • Ian

    Mick:

    “Isn’t another Ministerial seat to the SDLP as likely to come from SF, as the DUP?”

    Or the UUP? SDLP got more first preference votes than UUP last time, yet got 16 MLA’s to the UUP’s 18 therefore one SDLP minister to the UUP’s two. If one UUP seat had gone SDLP then they would have had 17 each and SDLP would have got the second ministry on the basis of most FPV’s.

  • PeaceandJustice

    Chris Gaskin – “Seeing is believing so roll on Thursday!”

    As you are a member of the Sinn Fein PIRA gang, it’s hardly surprising you want to talk up the situation. As I said previously, if the DUP lose the few crumbs they got in the last negotiations, then they are finished – and we’ll be back to direct rule.

    Let’s see what the SF PIRA terrorists do on Thursday instead of playing up the situation.

  • LOL, I’m not a member of any gang and I’m not talking up any situation.

    Your imagination is doing that all on its own.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’ve not worked it out Chris, just asking the question. My understanding of the d’Hondt system is not great, but I know it’s not just a straightforward calculation.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Chris,

    An election now is a hell of a gamble, in an environment where we’ve just been told that water charges (resistance to which was promised by SF) are to be introduced after all, and in the face of a broadly ineffective performance by the party in the executive. But let’s say it works out the way you expect, and your vote holds steady. How will this advance the cause of devolving policing and justice ?

    The real risk here is a collapse of the institutions and a resulting all-party talks process, which could work out bad for Sinn Fein if the blame for the collapse swings your way.

    The right way to solve these problems is with dialogue and negotiation. If you demonstrate your unwillingness to solve these matters through the proper channels, you’ll pay dearly for it.

  • Comrade

    Who has called an election? Negotations are continuing as we speak.

  • Observer

    It’s actually quite amusing.
    Many of the unionist commentators on this site spend a remarkable amount of time gloating at apparent DUP domination of Assembly proceedings and at Sinn Fein’s seeming inability to do anything about it.
    Now they’re screaming “foul” when Sinn Fein call time on this charade.
    Pete’s insistence on the aspirational deadline for devolution of P+J doesn’t seem that important any more, does it.
    Republicans have never been slaves to anyone elses rules, as the DUP appear to be about to find out.
    Bring it on.

  • kensei

    Mick

    Happy to answer on the specifics of that ken (I don’t mind eating porridge when I must)

    IRC, I believe you were out with the SDLP while they were canvassing, and then gave a positive blog on their chances.

  • observer

    Republicans have never been slaves to anyone elses rules, as the DUP appear to be about to find out.
    Bring it on.
    Posted by Observer on Jun 04, 2008 @ 01:24 AM

    LOL i think you`ll find they are. Marty will do as hes told and crawl in beside Peter. The DUP are in charge, get used to it

  • observer,

    … The DUP are in charge …

    Various unionists love to quote disgruntled nationalists complaining that nothing gets done withour the DUP agreeing it, and to then make the illogical jump to ‘the DUP are in charge’. But it simply isn’t true. The truth is that neither side is ‘in charge’ – both are shackled together in a strange situation of mutual vetoing. At present the media is highlighting nationalist things that the DUP has blocked, and thus leading fools (like you) to comments like ‘the DUP is in charge’. But when the DUP wants something they will be subject to exactly the same veto, but from the nationalist side. Will you then say that ‘Sinn Féin is in charge’?

  • If they were smart enough to only put forward one candidate in West Tyrone we (Nationalists/Republicans) would gain a minister from Unionism.

    Only for people who can’t add!

    Let’s assume a single seat change, an SDLP gain from Kieran Deeny in West Tyrone, giving an Assembly of DUP 36 SF 28 UUP 18 SDLP 17 All 7 Others 2. Running d’Hondt gives:

    DUP 36/18/12/9/7.2
    SF 28/14/9.33/7
    UUP 18/9/6
    SDLP 17/8.5/5.33
    All 7

    Or an executive unchanged from the present one. This right up there with thinking Alliance are going to lose our seat in Strangford… wishful thinking and poor analysis of the worst kind.

  • Sammy

    I didn’t say it would be a single seat change, I said the SDLP could gain a seat. I also expect the DUP to loose seats and the Unionist vote to fracture in general.

  • Ahem

    This is tooooooo funny for words. Not one Unionist anywhere has called ‘foul’. Quite the reverse. We’ve, many of us, called out ‘fools!’ and ‘go on: do it, you morons!’

    If Sinn Fein really think the mood of the public (their own most recently obtained supporters especially) is, “okay, you haven’t had the political nous to get what you’ve wanted, or claimed you could deliver, *and* you’ve now collapsed the executive in a fit of ineffectual pique – so, yup, I’ll vote for you”, then, please, please, green-white-and-orange-cherry on top, pretty please, cause that election! You gutless, incompetent tits.

  • Steve

    Ahem

    The only unionists on here calling for an election are the same ones who called a complete collapse of SF votes in the last election.

    Wheres SF’s vote going to go? To the croppie lay down party?

  • I didn’t say it would be a single seat change,

    No, but you said if there was a single seat gain for the SDLP in West Tyrone, that the SDLP would flip one of the Unionist Executive seats.

    And I quote you: “If they were smart enough to only put forward one candidate in West Tyrone we (Nationalists/Republicans) would gain a minister from Unionism.”

    I’ve just run d’Hondt under that assumption, and it wouldn’t.

    You’re quite right about a possible fragmentation of the DUP vote to TUV allowing the SDLP or SF to pick up an extra Ministry. But you said that the SDLP rectifying last year’s screw up in West Tyrone would on its own give them an extra Ministerial seat. It wouldn’t.

  • “But you said that the SDLP rectifying last year’s screw up in West Tyrone would on its own give them an extra Ministerial seat”

    No I didn’t, you assumed that!

  • Ahem

    Golly but I do love the arrogance and stupidity of the Provette drones authorised to post on Slugger. Their conceit has now tocuhed upon unreconstructed UUP levels. Which is to say, if you halfwits don’t realise “political parties” lose voters as readily as they can gain them, you really do deserve to get that election good and hard. But then again, as we will all see tomorrow, the guys who give you dullards the orders don’t, of course, have the balls to cause an election. And lo tomorrow you’ll all have flipped back to telling us that white is indeed black.

  • Ahem

    Nobody on Slugger from a Republican perspective has called for an election or said that Sinn Féin were intent on calling one.

    It’s all in your head, tomorrow will reveal all.

  • Ahem

    Chris, if you can’t do better than that, I see all too clearly why the grown ups in the party haven’t been able to do any better in office.

    This, we-did-not-do-the-thing-we-did cr*p may come all too naturally to the Shinners, but it’s getting painful to watch. Someone please put them out of our misery.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ahem,

    Can we leave the abusive terminology to one side?

    Chris,

    “It’s all in your head, tomorrow will reveal all.”

    Tomorrow will reveal certainly something, but I doubt it will reveal all (that could, at the very least, take weeks or months). As Jim Fitzpatrick said in yesterday’s Stormont Live, the party has chosen to use the media to do the speculation they won’t speak about (‘in public at least’). Given the extent of some of that material it is difficult then to make it plausibly deniable.

    Personally, I would not continue to report unattributable briefing material from a source or a party which then sought to shaft me afterwards. Life is too short, and there is always other ways to crack the same egg.

  • No I didn’t, you assumed that!

    Chris, fer feck’s sake man, you’re trying to deny something you’ve said on this very thread. Here’s the relevant bit of your post again:

    If, in the not too distant future, we have an election, for whatever reason, then I can assure you that I have no fear of knocking peoples door and asking for a vote. I don’t believe Sinn Féin would have anything to fear from that election.

    In fact the SDLP would have nothing to fear at that election either. If they were smart enough to only put forward one candidate in West Tyrone we(Nationalists/Republicans) would gain a minister from Unionism.

    So, if you meant that possibility being contingent on lots of things you didn’t actually say in your post, you’ll have to forgive me for not being psychically gifted.

  • Chris,

    am I supposed to be psychic or something?

  • Earth calling Captain Gaskin. Come in Captain Gaskin.

  • Chris,

    are you there? As I don’t have psychic powers, I can’t tell?